Hi there! I'm back a bit sooner than I thought I would be. This time I'm on a little weekend getaway to Atlanta. Why Atlanta, you might ask? Looking for some places to visit during my stay in the US, it just popped up and I was intrigued by some of the things you can visit, like the Martin Luther King National Park and of course the Delta Flight museum. Plus, I'd never been to the South before. I'm aware that there are many domestic Delta flights out there, so I'll try to keep that one short.
The itinerary for this weekend was short but sweet:
Booking this flight (in Basic Economy) I noticed that Delta offer a peanut-allergy service. As I am allergic to peanuts (but not so severly that I had any trouble on flights so far) I was curious what that would entail and checked the box during the booking.
Checking in via the Delta app, which I by the way really liked, I saw that I was assigned the middle seat 15B on the 737-700. However, checking on Flightradar24 for the plane on the morning of the departure, I realized that there was an equipment change - an MD-88! This meant that I could choose a window seat in a group of 2 on the right, seat 30E. Later the aisle seat next to me would turn out to be empty. Perfect.
Newark Airport & Boarding
Excruciatingly early in the morning (at least for me), I arrived at the Newark Airport station. I saved money by taking an earlier flight, but I certainly did pay with my nerves… if anything had gone majorly wrong, I would have been in trouble when it comes to the flight. But everything would out to be fine, and one slightly nauseating ride on the AirTrain later, I was in the airport and ready for security.
With no PreCheck/Global Entry, I was confined to the regular security line. A sign said that the waiting time would be less than 40 minutes. The lines moved pretty fast, and I was out in about 30 minutes. Alright, I guess. The gate area (gate 42) was already quite full when I arrived. By the way, I liked the Delta-designed gates.
There she is, McDonnell Douglas MD-88 N908DE, delivered in November 1992 to Delta Airlines, who have operated the plane ever since. Kind of rare for me to fly on a plane that's older than me nowadays.
Boarding began on time and was relatively orderly… Well, until after the boarding desk. In the jetbridge, there was a massive line of people creeping forward, waiting to get into the plane. To make matters "worse" (?), my suitcase was checked at the gate. But I had kind of foreseen this and packed everything important, electronics, and liquids all into my small cabin backpack. The cabin was visibly old, and for some reason almost all window shades were closed (and it would mostly remain that way during the flight). The inside of the plane was mostly clean, even though some things needed some cleaning: on this flight, it was the windows.
Soon, boarding was completed; the flight was fairly full, but I could enjoy the luxury of a free seat next to me. Legroom was alright. It was obvious that the plane was somewhat old, e.g. if you look at the ceiling panels. On the plus side: adjustable air vents for everyone (which was kind of important, as even I felt the cabin was on the cold side). After the manual safety demonstration, it was time to look at the seat pocket contents. Nothing special there, except maybe the MD-88 safety card. The menu offered a good variety of items for sale, but the flight was too short to get anything (a pity, because at the airport I got the most expensive sandwich of my life…) Some kinds of snacks however were free, the same goes for non-alcoholic beverages.
Before pushback, a flight attendant came to me and talked to me about the peanut allergy. She offered to take peanuts off the menu, and to serve almonds (instead?) - confusing, because peanuts were not even on the menu for this flight. Anyway, I appreciated the airline taking care of these things, even though I as someone whose allergy is not *critically* severe felt put in a weird spot of dictating (part of) the snack choices for everyone. The seat 30E proved to be a good "choice" (the only free seat that wasn't a middle seat…): A good wing-view, but also good to look down on the scenery on the ground, and I could also look at the engine when I turned around in a somewhat awkward position. Yet it wasn't close enough to the engine to be really loud - it was really nice hearing the JT8D engines spool up and run, but I could understand if non-av geeks would find this annoying. I would probably on a (much) longer flight.
Take-off & Inflight Experience
Driving past a parked AI 777, we rapidly taxied towards the runway and got in line for take-off. There were about four planes in front of us (not very surprisingly each and every one of them seemed to be a UA one), but in no time it was out turn.
Engines on full throttle, shaking and vibrating all of the airplane… Climbing and turning over New Jersey suburbs, and the Turnpike of course, through a thin layer of clouds and up to a beautiful, clear blue sky… And there I was. (A cleaner window would have helped with the photos…)
Snack service took a while, as two flight attendants were slowly but surely making their way through the whole of the cabin from front to back. I chose a coffee and salted almonds. The coffee was pretty good for aircraft coffee, and I guess the partnership with Starbuck pays off there. The almonds were just normal salted almonds, but I still enjoyed them a lot and liked that Delta serves quality snacks and drinks even in Economy on domestic short-haul flights.
Way too soon, we were descending again. "Too soon" partly because when they increased the cabin pressure again, I had some serious trouble with my ears… that had happened to me before, but not in the past three years or so. Well, I survived and everything turned out alright. And it's also not really something Delta is to blame for. As we dove through the clouds, the skyline of Atlanta appeared in the distance. On the ground, there were some interesting things to see. For example this building with an awful lot of antennas (that I couldn't identify on Google Maps) and those strange rock formations. Does anybody know what they are?
Landing & Atlanta Airport
The air got somewhat bumpy as the MD-88 drew nearer to the ground, preparing to touch down at its home base. The landing was not quite buttery, but safe and on point, so everything was alright for me. The JT8D spooled up again, this time to slow the aircraft down, further creating the impression that the MD-88 seems to be a well-motorized plane indeed. Surprisingly, I heard nobody applauding. And of course, the first thing that I saw in Atlanta was a Delta plane, a 777 being towed somehere, and then an MD-90. The Renaissance Hotel looks to be a pretty good choice for aviation enthusiasts looking to spend a night of layover in ATL (but I still hope that they have good sound insulation). It looks like you can literally jump out of the window and land on the 777 that's parked in front of the hotel (not condoning jumping out of windows and/or on planes).
Taxiing past a few of ATL's concourses (still full with Delta planes), we finally turned right at some point. What I found interesting are the little displays attached to the terminal building where the gates are. The gate we were going to be in already said MD88 (sorry for the somewhat blurry photo - shot this in a hurry). Our plane came to a halt next to another MD88.
Really funny moment when you look out of the window and suddenly see your own suitcase on the conveyor… (the white one). It was also a good reminder that you have to be careful with how you pack your bags, especially if you have fragile/sensitive items. The guy here was alright, but some of the baggage handlers really like to wildly throw around suitcases. Anyways, I was in no hurry, so I took time to get out of my seat and join the crowd casually pushing their way out of the plane.
Upon entering the airport, I instantly didn't have the impression that this was a particularly big airport, even though as of now it's the largest of the world - but more on that on the return flight. When I had made my way to the baggage claim via the PlaneTrain people mover, I arrived just in time to see my suitcase being dropped on the carousel. Pretty quick. It was also remarkable how much Delta owns this place… all the gates in the area I arrived at were Delta-styled, and half of the baggage claim was reserved only to that airline.
I hope you enjoyed this report as much as I enjoyed the flight (well, except the part with the pressure on my ears)! If you have any questions or general remarks, or feedback, feel free to leave a comment.
PS: Click on the tourism bonus for a few impressions of the Delta Flight Museum!
Bonus : Click here display hide
This won't exactly be a comprehensive review or anything… but on the day of my flight back (the only day the museum was open during my stay) I've made my way to the Delta HQ which sits on the Northern side of the airport. Once I got through the main gate after a quick ID check, I arrived at the old hangars, where they sell tickets at an adult rate of $15. Even the outside of the building is interesting, as they use 757 landing gears as "columns" to "support" the roof in front of the entrance. Inside, I was greeted with multiple rooms and hangars full of stuff to explore and with what must be the Dollar Tree version of American Pie (the song). Anyways, in the hangars you'll find exhibits from all eras of Delta's long history, from the first type of cropduster the company started with to a DC-3…
…to (the part of) an L-1011 TriStar, a 737-200 flight simulator ($435 for the experience - too steep for me), and a 767 you can enter and explore on the inside.
We'd probably call this "Premium Economy" today…
Even the inside of the planes exhibited (the 767 and the 747 outside) not only show parts of the original cabins, but further exhibits from the airline's history. The outside exhibits consisted of a 757 in a historical livery, another MD-80 type plan (don't know exactly which model), and of course the 747.
All in all, I really enjoyed this museum. It was a rather inexpensive (for Atlanta) and nice way to spend a few hours before (or after) a flight. It also wasn't as crowded as other places in Atlanta, which was nice as well. I also enjoyed the museum shop, where you can find lots of nice and reasonably priced Delta merch and plane models.
Delta Air Lines
Newark - EWR
Atlanta - ATL
Delta: All in all, a nice experience. The cabin was kind of old and could have been a bit cleaner in detail, but it was overall acceptable. Seats were comfortable, too. There was no entertainment to speak of, but I still give it 0,5 points more for the entertainment value of the JT8D engines :P Catering was absolutely adequate for this duration of the flight and certainly appreciated - some airlines in other parts of the world, however, provide sandwiches or even hot meals on flights this length. The best aspect of the service was probably the cabin crew, who really did a great job in my book and made you feel welcome on board.
EWR: EWR is a good airport to fly from. Though it might not be that intuitive to navigate, it's efficient enough and the security lines are not short, but not terribly long either. From where I currently reside, it's quite a journey, but I know that EWR is a pretty convenient airport for New York City, with many train connections with NJ Transit, PATH, and Amtrak. The gate areas, however, were a bit bare when it comes to shops and the food places tend to be very expensive.
ATL: Even though my suitcase was checked at the gate, it was no problem locating and fetching it; consequently, I lost (close to) no time. So I had a "hands-free" flight at not extra cost, basically. The concourse system with the little satellite terminals make the airport feel compact in a good way, connected with the frequently running and quick PlaneTrain. It's somewhat far from the city, but there are lots of good connections either with MARTA or the numerous hotel shuttles departing from the airport.
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